Lectionary Reflection on the Epiphany

MatthewThis excerpt comes from Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 2:1-12:

Herod, informed by his wise men, in secret calls the wise men from the East to him, learns from them when the star appeared, and sends them to Bethlehem. He calls them in secret because he does not want to make credible the presumption that a king has been born. But he tells the wise men that he would also like to go and pay homage to the one who has been born a king.

Herod’s role in the narrative should not be overlooked, for without Herod the wise men might not have found the one they sought. The enemies of the kingdom often serve the movement begun in Jesus.

The wise men, heeding Herod’s advice, continue to follow the star that goes before them. The star stops over the place where Jesus is born, paying homage to the child and eliciting from the wise men overwhelming joy.

These wise men, men schooled to appreciate the complexity of the world, see the mother and child, and they worship him. If this is not the Messiah, if this is not the one born to be king, if this is not the Son of God, then what these wise men do is idolatry.

That they are able to see the worthiness of this one who alone can be worshiped was surely a gift from the Father. The same gift gives hope to all Gentiles, for through this child we have been called to participate in the alternative world signaled by his birth.

Moreover, like the wise men, it turns out that God has given us gifts of bread and wine to be offered so that the world may know that there is an alternative to Herod.

The wise men are warned in a dream not to return to Herod but to return to their own country by another road. It is quite significant that the wise men return to their own country. It seems that God did not mean for them to stay in Israel, which, given the joy they experienced, must have been a temptation.

Rather, they are charged to return home, becoming an outpost, a witness, to the joy they have experienced. The journey they undertake becomes for us part of the story that brings joy.

That journey might well be called “another road” that we too must take. The kingdom is a journey, another road, whereby followers of Jesus may well find that they are strangers even when they are “at home.”

 

©2006 by Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.